The equatorial pacific cold tongue bias in a coupled climate model

Vasubandhu Misra, L. Marx, M. Brunke, X. Zeng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


A set of multidecadal coupled ocean-atmosphere model integrations are conducted with different time steps for coupling between the atmosphere and the ocean. It is shown that the mean state of the equatorial Pacific does not change in a statistically significant manner when the coupling interval between the atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM) and the ocean general circulation model (OGCM) is changed from 1 day to 2 or even 3 days. It is argued that because the coarse resolution of the AGCM precludes resolving realistic "weather" events, changing the coupling interval from 1 day to 2 or 3 days has very little impact on the mean coupled climate. On the other hand, reducing the coupling interval to 3 h had a much stronger impact on the mean state of the equatorial Pacific and the concomitant general circulation. A novel experiment that incorporates a (pseudo) interaction of the atmosphere with SST at every time step of the AGCM was also conducted. In this unique coupled model experiment, the AGCM at every time step mutually interacts with the skin SST. This skin SST is anchored to the bulk SST, which is updated from the OGCM once a day. Both of these experiments reduced the cold tongue bias moderately over the equatorial Pacific Ocean with a corresponding reduction in the easterly wind stress bias relative to the control integration. It is stressed from the results of these model experiments that the impact of high-frequency air-sea coupling is significant on the cold tongue bias. The interannual variation of the equatorial Pacific was less sensitive to the coupling time step between the AGCM and the OGCM. Increasing (reducing) the coupling interval of the air-sea interaction had the effect of weakening (marginally strengthening) the interannual variations of the equatorial Pacific Ocean. It is argued that the low-frequency response of the upper ocean, including the cold tongue bias, is modulated by the atmospheric stochastic forcing on the coupled ocean-atmosphere system. This effect of the atmospheric stochastic forcing is affected by the frequency of the air-sea coupling and is found to be stronger than the rectification effect of the diurnal variations of the air-sea interaction on the low frequency. This may be a result of a limitation in the coupled model used in this study in which the OGCM has an inadequate vertical resolution in the mixed layer to sustain diurnal variations in the upper ocean.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5852-5869
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number22
StatePublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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